Best Coast/Wavves at Lincoln Hall
The strength of weed and power chords should never be underestimated. Three-minute songs that are saturated with the sounds of summer, boredom, overly distorted guitars, nostalgia, and the California seaside are forces to be reckoned with too. If you love any of these aforementioned characteristics in your music, enjoy making sure your friends know that you’re going to see bands perform that they’ve never heard of, or are simply a disaffected youth from the Chicago suburbs, then the Best Coast/Wavves show at Lincoln Hall on Tuesday night was for you. The all-ages show started near 7:00, presumably to get all the high school kids that came out in droves to support two rising and youthful independent rock bands home before their parents’ curfews. No Joy opened the evening with a presumably solid set, considering the musical company they keep, but we unfortunately were not able to make it to the Fullerton Red Line stop in time for them.
By the time we arrived at the club -- cheeks a-tingle from successful pre-gaming combined with the effect of Chicago temperatures in lower digits than Gery Chico’s mayoral polling statistics -- Bethany Cosentino and company of Best Coast were winding down their set. High Schoolers awkwardly lurched in front and hipsters apathetically nodded in back whilst loudly discussing the relative merits of Deerhunter versus Yeasayer, but the band was firing on all cylinders.
Despite occasionally wallowing in a lo-fidelity quagmire on past releases, Cosentino’s voice was melodic and clear in person while belting out lyrics that have become increasingly well known as Best Coast slowly acquires national independent attention. The interplay of the dueling guitars of Cosentino and sideman Bobb Bruno also worked together to bring out the distorted -- yet surprisingly intricate -- harmonies that pack so much pop appeal into Best Coast’s heavy surf-rock couture. Their sound may occasionally be formulaic (verse about a boy, catchy chorus, verse about drugs, catchy chorus, sonic freak-out, catchy chorus; then put a shit-load of cats in the music video), but damn does Best Coast do it well.
Then came Wavves, and the torrent of noise and ecstatically youthful vigor unleashed by members Nathan Williams (guitar/vocals), Jacob Cooper (drums), and Stephen Pope (bass/vocals) provided me with my first experience of feeling like the oldest person at a show. Which can either blow or feel totally exhilarating, depending on your outlook. We decided to enjoy the hell out of our Tuesday night, and eventually dove into the mosh pit of teenagers reeking of sweat, marijuana, and exuberance. They may be snot-nosed teens, but so am I, and ricocheting about sans abandon, while a band in their early 20s swaggers around and enjoys themselves on stage too, felt pretty great. I even got an inflatable alien out of the deal.
But it was the influence of the youthful bombast and strength that made Wavves so unpredictably enjoyable to watch. Listening to their albums, especially the recently critically acclaimed “King of the Beach,” it was always difficult to move past the nasally anger and clear California and punk influences of Williams’ music. But live, what mattered most was enjoying yourself and the community that rose up with the sound of Wavves’ slamming rhythms and hard-hitting solos, coupled with falsetto choruses, stage dives, and beach ball attacks.
That isn’t to say that self-image isn’t important for the band or their fans. In an era when the term “hipster” is both a condemnation and an achievement, a Best Coast/Wavves show highlights the importance of everything from fashion to musical taste to post-show meal (all the cool kids go to McDonald’s) as a means of both distinguishing oneself as an individual while identifying with a larger alternative subculture. But I’ll save such issues for the sociologists of the next decade.
For now, what’s important is that even if Best Coast or Wavves aren’t the most technically endowed bands, they certainly know how to write, record, and perform a kickass song. And their fans, from disaffected 15-year-old hipsters to the wine-swilling patrons in the balcony, will eagerly sell out Lincoln Hall for a chance to see the rock musicians their future snot-nosed kids might nostalgically appreciate some day. And let’s be honest here, what grandchild wouldn’t want to hear about how fucking awesome his grandpa’s music taste was back in the day? Mine sure as hell will.
Best Coast and Wavves combined their weed and California-induced musical prowess to put on a great show at a great venue. Lincoln Hall is rapidly becoming one of the most popular musical venues in the Chicago area, thanks to its impeccable sound quality, comfortable and spacious design, and willingness to bring respected alternative acts to the city at a relatively cheap price. For only $17.50 in ticket and transportation costs, I saw two up-and-coming great bands with ardent fans, all on a Tuesday that promised little more than a dreary study session at the library at best.